50 Beers from 50 States in 50 Weeks: Is travels through Idaho, Washington and Oregon, drinking beer along the way, for a friend’s memorial
In May, my girlfriend Megan’s sister, Kathleen Higgins, passed away. She was outgoing. She stood up for what she believed in and let you know if you were messing with those beliefs. She was in so many people’s lives, in fact, there were memorial services held for her in Idaho and in Washington. Also, she liked beer. From what I saw, she always had a growler of something she liked from one of her local breweries. That was before I even knew what craft beer was.
So with her liking beer so much, a lot of her family and friends liking beer and maybe a little to do with me loving beer (okay, maybe a lot to do with my beer love) the trip in Kathleen’s memory had some beer-related detours.
My first stop was just outside of my hotel, Winger’s Grill and Bar in Ontario, Oregon. I ordered a Deschutes Fresh Squeezed IPA and paid. Well into my drink, I noticed they had a tasting flight of five (four being their own brews) so I ordered it. After finishing my drinks I went to pay for the flight and asked the bartender how much I owed. She said, “You’re good, aren’t you?” I told her, “No, I didn’t pay for the flight.” She smiled, and said, “Welcome to Oregon.”
I think I like Oregon.
A few days later, we went to Payette Brewing Company in Garden City, Idaho with some friends of Kathleen’s, including players from Boise Nemesis Rugby, the team Kathleen played on. We took a tour of the brewery, drank (they have a tripel that is fantastic), ate (pizza, it’s a bring-your-own-food place), the rugby women sang rugby songs (offensive to some, but hilarious to me) and we drank more.
The following day, we went to 10 Barrel Brewing Co. in Boise, Idaho, once again with Kathleen’s friends. The food is delicious and the beer…oh man, the beer. They offer two different tasting flights, ten different brews in each. Megan’s brother, Pat, and I each got a flight, allowing us to share and try 20 beers each.
Days later we were in Washington State, visiting with Mike Silk, a friend of the Higgins Family and owner of the former Ancient Lakes Brewing Co. In his garage, he had Ancient Lakes Small Town Brown and Tribulation Barleywine, which was aged for more than a year and tapped especially for us. Along with the brews on tap, Mike had a few of the last bottles of Ancient Lakes’ beers. Pat and I also brought bottles for a proper bottle share.
Thanks to Pat, I got to try my first two Bourbon County Brand Stouts and Mike shared a Beer Camp Invitation IPA from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. (before it was available to us non-brewers). Mike brought out different grains and hop pellets for us to try. He even brought out a hop cone for us to smell, and me having a chef background, I just had to try it. It was a hop explosion. It was an amazing experience.
We also visited Saddle Rock Pub & Brewing and Badger Mountain Brewery in Wenatchee, Washington. All I remember, though, is having a twelve-beer flight of superb beer from really well-known breweries served in half of a snowboard at Saddle Rock. I know I had a few at Badger Mountain. I’d forgotten I’d taken pain pills (for my broken ankle).
Pain pills and beer do not mix. People: don’t do it.
Jump ahead to the present: Pat just released his memorial beer in honor of Kathleen from his home brewing brand, Higgins Brewing Co. It’s called Hittin’ Bitches Irish Stout. Kathleen was devoted to rugby and she loved “hittin’ bitches” (her words, not mine). As I said before, Kathleen played for Boise Nemesis Rugby at the time of her passing. Before that, she played for Washington State University’s National Championship women’s rugby team. So “Hittin’ Bitches” is a rugby thing, not a domestic violence thing (which Kathleen was an advocate against, so not that).
Pat started this memorial brew two months ago in Mike Silk’s garage when we had the bottle share. Mike helped Pat formulate the right recipe for what he knew Kathleen would’ve liked, based on her favorite beers. Mike also gave Pat the right hops and grains needed for the brew. Pat took it all back home to Las Vegas, where he brewed two separate batches. Both are tasty, but the second batch was ultimately chosen to be “Hittin’ Bitches.” The labels for the bottles were created by Lisa Silk, Mike’s wife. The picture on the label was actually taken from a photo of Kathleen tackling a girl while playing rugby.
Hittin’ Bitches Irish Stout is delightful. It is very drinkable: not too dark and thick, but definitely not a light beer. I’ve got a couple of bottles I’m going to age a bit because I know with time this beer will be so much better. Good job, Pat.
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